Note: Two of the following photos were taken on the FREE SHOWCASE at 平和島 HY TOWN HALL, credited to: Kanpen. Reference from: http://kanpen.asia/archives/27674 The other two were taken on the talk session, credited to CAMPUS Asia Teaching Assistant, Andie Wang.
May 3 K-POP EXP Edition @ Waseda
Voice for the New Age
In the middle of the golden week, the CAMPUS Asia program was fortunate to welcome a group of special guests, EXP EDITION, for a talk session on Waseda Campus. Their presence is new both to Waseda and the global music industry since they are the first all non-Korean K-Pop band. They are the new band of the new global era, and there are many to tell behind their beautiful voices.
The four members of EXP EDITION, Frankie, Koki, Hunter, and Šime, along with the co-producer Ms. Karin Kuroda and the company director Mr. Seunghwan Oh, attended the event and shared their stories with Professor Shukuko Koyama and Waseda students. The starting point of EXP EDITION was a master thesis project by Bora Kim when she was studying at Columbia University in New York. She intended to see if non-Koreans could also performance K-Pop and make a K-Pop band. After she developed the idea, Ms. Kim invited Samantha Y. Shao and Ms. Kuroda to join her team and held an audition to everyone interested. They selected six members in total, and interestingly, the members were all ‘Westerners’. With the great response they received after the first show; the group decided to push it further for a professional debut in Seoul, where the real K-Pop industry locates. Since then, they launched their first album, finished their first live in Japan, and are hoping to shine even brighter on the music stage.
The presence of EXP EDITION offers many stimulus questions. Should only Koreans perform K-Pop? Can the West turn to Asia and learn from it, pop-culture-wise? Ms. Bora Kim tries to raise the issues by creating EXP EDITION, and as the great performer, the group members have shown their diligence and perseverance when casting the whole project. Indeed, they are from the western countries, but this does not keep them from the fact that their sincere wills to perform K-Pop. They learned the Korean language from scratch, and at an incredible speed, they are now fluently speaking and singing in Korean.
Being a non-Korean K-Pop band, they attract both positive and negative reactions. At the talk event, the members shared their thoughts and feelings about these reactions. Interestingly, according to them, the most negative attitudes tend to come from the non-Korean English speaking K-pop fans, including the United States where the band was created. On the other hand, the Korean fans are showing a very welcome and warm attitude, and even the Koreans who are not usually listening to K-Pop show their support to the group.
The fans with not so positive reaction initially tended to simplify the members by claiming that they are ‘white Western people,’ even though that is not the case. The simplification overlooked the diversity among the members and the transnational nature of the group. Eventually, discussion among K-Pop fans over the translational and diverse nature of the group started to take place. The members also told how heated debates took place in the comment space under their video posts and how some people began to change their mindsets towards the group.
Our discussion at the talk event also revealed that EXP EDITION is not only a new breeze to the current music industry but also a response to the rising awareness of gender. Three female producers, Ms. Bora Kim, Ms. Karin Kuroda and Ms. Samantha Y. Shao, co-created EXP EDITION with their diverse Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese backgrounds. The members recalled that on the audition day they were asked to wear make-up and shoot a video clip in which they appear cuddling in white feathers and balloons – not so ‘masculine’ in a conventional sense. The story stirred discussions among the participating students. In the talk, the members and students discussed how the gendered stereotypes have been constructed in societies like Korea and Japan, and how K-POP groups like EXP EDITION and others could offer more flexible images and social norms associated with gender and sex.
The discussion also touched upon the power of music. Šime shared his own experience and how music could still bring peoples together. Born in Croatia, Šime shared a story of how songs created before the war could bring peoples together. This story suggested the possibility of arts to become a means for the Asian countries to overcome the current and historical conflicts, and move towards greater cooperation among themselves.
The talk session ended with a lovely present from EXP EDITION – an a-cappella performance of one of their songs. Their voice was so beautiful that all the students wanted to listen to them more. The group is also hoping to come back to Waseda to meet more students. All of the participants look forward to another special event on Waseda campus by this marvelous group soon. Before that, let all of us listen to their songs, support their group and wait for the day to come!
After the event, the two Waseda participants shared their feedback. Both of them indeed liked the band and would love to welcome EXP EDITION’s next visit!
“It was such a pleasure to meet them! They gave me a chance to think about how cool and transnational K-POP is. I’m already one of their fans! ” – Rio Yoshinaga
“The event made me realize again how powerful and influential K-pop is. The scale of the industry is big, and the soft power it carries has gone beyond politics and influence greatly on the coming generation, from the relationship between different nations, and social groups to the gender issue. ” – Taro Yoshizawa
music video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28S377-hmzI